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Author Topic: A veri interesting article in the Times today  (Read 16671 times)
Hywel
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« Reply #40 on: April 01, 2010, 04:27:15 AM »
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The interesting thing, of course, if that the visual arts have been through this massive upheaval before.

In the 1890's, when common people could suddenly afford to get portraits taken photographically. The wonderful new technology of photography meant that you could get a portrait done for pennies, rather than having to pay a portrait artist for hours and hours of work in front of the easel.

Before the advent of low-cost photography, only the rich and noble had portraits painted. Afterwards, anyone on a middling wage could have portraits photographed. Why do you think old fashioned studio portraits always show people in their very formal Sunday best clothes? Because getting your portrait done was a proper occasion, it was as if you were suddenly promoted to the ranks of nobility, doing something that would have been totally out of your league just a few years before. No wonder they wanted to dress up. (And of course the existing style was for dressing up, because all the nobles had wanted to for their portraits, too).

I'm sure that the professional portrait painters railed and cursed at the erosion of their craft, as the photographers piled them high and pushed them through. Portrait painting survived, although I'm sure it was a rough time to live through as a portrait painter and I wouldn't minimize the misery it must have caused. Some portrait painters turned their hands to the new medium and because great portrait photographers, of course. (Many of the early photographic artists had a fine arts background, although many of the most commercially successful early photographers had completely different trade backgrounds).

What's happening today parallels this. Some photographers will move with the times and shoot microstock that sells. Most of the market need for stock imagery might well be supplied by part-timers (not really amateurs if they are making even beer money from selling their images). Personally, shooting stuff for stock doesn't appeal to me all that much, but if it did, I guess I'd probably shoot it for microstock as it seems to be the wave of the future.

It doesn't necessarily mean the end of the high-end photographic market, although I think there's clearly a huge upheaval and contraction taking place. The flipside of the microstock shooting style is that just finding that one emotional high-impact gallery-worthy image in the millions and millions of slightly anodyne slightly generic but technically fine morass will be a challenge. Print costs aren't going to come down because they have a physical component, so anyone wanting a picture for their wall is still going to have to pay a premium. People with a unique vision will still be able to make a living at it, if enough people like their work and are willing to pay for it.

I'm as worried about this as the next man, even producing images for sale by subscription on the web relies upon people not uploading our stuff to sharing websites (and indeed I have to pay people to hunt that sort of egregious copyright violation down). But unfortunately I don't see any way in which one can resist the movement of the market, except to hope that you are doing good enough work that people will still want to buy it.

An even more worrying question is whether still photography is going to retain its lure for very long, with magazines possibly heading for extinction and being replaced by online sites (like LL... like it or not, we're participating in the destruction by having these conversations here rather than in the pages of a photo magazine. And we don't pay a subscription to be here, either.) I'm sure that the very best stills photographers will continue to thrive, but for a lot of people lower down the food chain, you'd better get tooled up for video, and quickly, because I think more and more paying jobs are going to require a mix of stills and videos.

As the curse has it... "May you live in interesting times". I think we do.

  Cheers, Hywel
« Last Edit: April 01, 2010, 04:31:24 AM by Hywel » Logged
Rob C
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« Reply #41 on: April 01, 2010, 09:33:51 AM »
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Hywel

The problem, of course, is that unlike the old painting/photography revolution, we are still talking about a single medium: photography. It has nothing to do with displacing one medium with another; it has all to do with ruining the financial structure of the same medium. Not similar at all.

I believe that had professionals not panicked and joined in the wholesale destruction of their own lives, had had the courage of leaving the micro world to the amateur, then it would have been a different story. Do any of you remember the wars some couple of years ago within Getty? As I seem to remember of the time, that had zich to do with amateurs, it was all about business structure and who comes out on top and by how much.

I believe much of it has been assisted suicide.

Rob C
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #42 on: April 01, 2010, 09:51:21 AM »
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Wingeing aside (like it's going to make any difference), what is to be done for the future? Where should the stock photographer who believes his business ruined then go? What is the next 'thing' for the pro photographer? Is that question not more important and crucial? What are people doing instead, what is the next big thing? Is it video stock? Is it something else?

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TMARK
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« Reply #43 on: April 01, 2010, 10:49:47 AM »
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Quote from: Ben Rubinstein
Wingeing aside (like it's going to make any difference), what is to be done for the future? Where should the stock photographer who believes his business ruined then go? What is the next 'thing' for the pro photographer? Is that question not more important and crucial? What are people doing instead, what is the next big thing? Is it video stock? Is it something else?

One word:  Motion.  

I don't think there is room for full time professional stock shooters.  That market died with the D70.  

There are always seminars, workshops, etc.
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KLaban
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« Reply #44 on: April 01, 2010, 11:45:16 AM »
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Quote from: TMARK
I don't think there is room for full time professional stock shooters.  That market died with the D70.

Spot on.

Why would a reputable company...
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feppe
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Oh this shows up in here!


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« Reply #45 on: April 01, 2010, 12:14:29 PM »
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Quote from: KLaban

Wow that should be a required link for any photo buyer...
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Hywel
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« Reply #46 on: April 01, 2010, 01:14:41 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
Hywel

The problem, of course, is that unlike the old painting/photography revolution, we are still talking about a single medium: photography. It has nothing to do with displacing one medium with another; it has all to do with ruining the financial structure of the same medium. Not similar at all.

I don't agree with that. The product then was portraits of people, only the means of production and delivery changed.

A few years after the portrait painters got shafted by the photographers, the professional portrait photographers got shafted by cheap film cameras so family portraits could be done the family themselves. Then the makers of cheap film cameras and film itself got shafted by the move to digital.

The changes we are seeing are the result of a change in medium: from film to digital. The differing cost of pixels on a hard drive vs. silver halide crystals in film means more photographs, same as the differing cost of photograph vs. a painting meant more portraits.

This is exacerbated by the allied move from physical delivery (prints, slides, advertising boards, magazines...) to digital delivery, which reduces the cost of making additional perfect copies by such a large factor as to make it almost free.

That's the reason why there ARE microstocks- because for the first time, it has become possible to make perfect reproductions for almost zero cost. And if the cost of the physical item becomes essentially zero, it seems inevitable that the cost of the product as a whole is at risk. It only takes a few people to figure out that they can sell 10,000 copies of a photo for $1 each rather than one photo for $10,000 each before market forces start to take over, and as others have said there's now a huge excess in the supply of "just about good enough" photos from the microstocks and the demand from high end consumers like magazines is falling. That makes for a painful squeeze on the people in the middle of the market. It's just mass production in action.

Surviving will be a matter of adapting one's business model as best as one can. For the moment, we're sticking with the "high quality, regular updates" model... but I figured out that my website has around 50,000 images all visible to someone for a $30 monthly fee. That's 0.06 cents per image... not counting the hours of video. (That's 6 hundreths of a cent, not six cents!)

That's a number that would horrify even the microstocks. Granted, that's for viewing/downloading rights only, not the right to use the image yourself for anything other than personal viewing pleasure. But still, I guess that means I'm making a living selling digital downloads of my photos for 0.06 cents each... and I consider myself to be at the upper end of the quality vs. quantity curve for erotica sold electronically! There are sites offering access to 250,000 images for the same price... 0.012 cents per image.

It is possible to survive in such a climate, but it requires a different business model from the one that pertained when (for example) erotica was primarily published in magazines, or when a customer wanting "a photograph" wanted a 6x7 transparency for a magazine cover, not an 800x600 graphic for a website.

Cheers, Hywel.



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Craig Lamson
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« Reply #47 on: April 01, 2010, 02:01:00 PM »
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Quote from: TMARK
Products is or soon will be all cgi. Products isn't even a market anymore.


SOME products...others I don't think so much.  It really depends on the product and the customer.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2010, 02:01:27 PM by infocusinc » Logged

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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #48 on: April 01, 2010, 02:59:54 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
...I believe that had professionals not panicked and joined in the wholesale destruction of their own lives...
In defense of poor professionals, it shall be noted that they are not unique in their (human) weaknesses. Most (if not all) humans, when faced with what is known in game theory as "prisoner's dilemma", would do the same, i.e., choose the best strategy for themselves (individually), whereas the outcome for all participants (collectively) is worse off. For those who prefer blockbusters to books, some of this can be found in "A Beautiful Mind", starring Russell Crowe as John Forbes Nash, a Nobel Prize in Economics.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2010, 03:03:35 PM by Slobodan Blagojevic » Logged

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gwhitf
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« Reply #49 on: April 01, 2010, 03:55:44 PM »
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http://www.pdnpulse.com/2010/03/istock-try...eat-it-too.html
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KLaban
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« Reply #50 on: April 02, 2010, 02:48:41 AM »
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Thompson should have referred him to the world's leading authority, Douglas Freebies
« Last Edit: April 02, 2010, 03:47:00 AM by KLaban » Logged

Quentin
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« Reply #51 on: April 02, 2010, 11:56:37 AM »
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Quote from: KLaban
Thompson should have referred him to the world's leading authority, Douglas Freebies

I feel your pain...  
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Quentin Bargate, ARPS, Author, photographer entrepreneur and senior partner of Bargate Murray, Law Firm of the Year 2013
N Walker
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« Reply #52 on: April 02, 2010, 01:25:51 PM »
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Quote from: Quentin
I feel your pain...  


http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8600863.stm  

2 million rights managed copies sold and still selling - fortunately taken (1976) before computers and istock became the norm.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2010, 01:44:04 PM by Nick Walker » Logged

gwhitf
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« Reply #53 on: April 02, 2010, 02:58:42 PM »
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A story on the partial life of one particular photograph, in all the many ways it was used.

http://fairtradephotographer.blogspot.com/...le-company.html

It feels like a photograph that would be one one of those websites that they license as a placeholder, where they're trying to get someone else to buy the domain from them.

I wonder what this guy made, (after expenses of the shoot), from this one image.
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mmurph
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« Reply #54 on: April 02, 2010, 03:09:22 PM »
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This is from 2004. It was adressed to the "pros" at the time, but it seems to me it applies 100 fold to those lured in by the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow peddeled by the microstock companies. Distribution is the golden egg. Content providers? Those are the pigeons:

http://www.editorialphoto.com/outreachep/wap2.asp

You guys in this business are viewed by the clients, by reps, by the stock agencies, by the lawyers who work for your clients - as naive, passive to a fault as "artistes" in the most pejorative sense. That you lack business acumen, that you never read anything - and I know from personal experience and Erica can tell you from personal experience, we know that half of you don't read the letters that we send you, even though you're paying us. We know they're not read. They perceive you as being unable to write English sentences. They perceive you as being unable to put a paragraph together. They perceive you as being easily fooled and very desperate.

This is the way that they talk about you behind your back. They don't tell you that when their having drinks after a shoot and they don't volunteer this information, but it's what they tell us when we have them under oath. It's what they tell us when their in negotiations. These are people who can, and will, tap you on the back with one hand and pick your pocket with the other. And it can happen to you.

This is an environment where perception becomes realty. All of you are dealing in the visual arts and this really should hit home. You should understand this in your gut. The scent of desperation by and amongst photographers is about as subtle as a dead skunk in the middle of the road and if the person you are negotiating with - who you guys like to call your ‘negotiating partner' - senses that desperation, you are likely then to become another piece of road kill.
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Quentin
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« Reply #55 on: April 02, 2010, 03:34:11 PM »
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Quote from: mmurph
This is from 2004. It was adressed to the "pros" at the time, but it seems to me it applies 100 fold to those lured in by the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow peddeled by the microstock companies. Distribution is the golden egg. Content providers? Those are the pigeons:

http://www.editorialphoto.com/outreachep/wap2.asp

You guys in this business are viewed by the clients, by reps, by the stock agencies, by the lawyers who work for your clients - as naive, passive to a fault as "artistes" in the most pejorative sense. That you lack business acumen, that you never read anything - and I know from personal experience and Erica can tell you from personal experience, we know that half of you don't read the letters that we send you, even though you're paying us. We know they're not read. They perceive you as being unable to write English sentences. They perceive you as being unable to put a paragraph together. They perceive you as being easily fooled and very desperate.

This is the way that they talk about you behind your back. They don't tell you that when their having drinks after a shoot and they don't volunteer this information, but it's what they tell us when we have them under oath. It's what they tell us when their in negotiations. These are people who can, and will, tap you on the back with one hand and pick your pocket with the other. And it can happen to you.

This is an environment where perception becomes realty. All of you are dealing in the visual arts and this really should hit home. You should understand this in your gut. The scent of desperation by and amongst photographers is about as subtle as a dead skunk in the middle of the road and if the person you are negotiating with - who you guys like to call your ‘negotiating partner' - senses that desperation, you are likely then to become another piece of road kill.

Its just another predictiable rant at the dying of the light.  Cheap music downloads have morphed in to cheap picture downloads, video clips, vector graphics, and most other digital information available on the internet.  

Most news channels offer their content to the public for free. News organsiations have a hard time working out how to make money from an an online world used to getting their inforamtion for free.  Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that relies on the provision of free content from the public.

In my practice as a lawyer, I and my collegaues are expected to provide an increasing amount of information and advice for free, and (in the UK) we soon face the advent of so called "tesco law" as many legal services are deregulated.  A threat or an opportunity?  Its all a question of attitude.

What on earth makes stock photographers think that they should be treated as a special case?  Who said photographers should be insulated from the forces of modern business models that have grown out of the internet and digital technology / media?  

Generic photography is worth the price people are prepared to pay for it - which is not very much, as iStock and their contemporaries understand all too well.  The local community magazine or website that was not prepared to pay $150 for an overpriced image from Getty is happy to pay a few dollars for an image from Shuttersotck, Fotolia, iStock etc.  A high end will survive but you had better be really good to be part of it.

Roadkill?  You just didn't move fast enough.  

Quentin
« Last Edit: April 02, 2010, 03:38:29 PM by Quentin » Logged

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mmurph
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« Reply #56 on: April 02, 2010, 04:18:14 PM »
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Roadkill?  You just didn't move fast enough.


You completely misread the article.

He is an attorney who works for photographers. He is talking about how stock agencies view the sophistication and business acumen of their content providers - the photographers.  And this was in the era prior to microstocks.

He is talking about the importance of photographers not overselling rights,, not believing the client when they say "we don't have any money for trhis project", etc.

The majority of people doing business with the microstock companies already **are** roadkill.


They are equivalent to folks who show up at a club cycling race, hosted by a semi-professional team, dressed in cloth shorts, black socks, and sandals with their legs unshaven, on an old upright 3 speed Schwinn.

If it is someone young and talented and polite and eager to learn, like Greg Lemond at 15, the more experienced riders are likely to take him under their wing and teach them the art and  discipline of the sport. After all, in most fields, it takes 5-10 years to acquire the knowledge necessary to rise through the "professional ranks."

If it is some 47 year old computer analyst, acting arrogant and bragging about having ridden 27 miles the previous week, you let him lead for as long as he is able, them you dust him off in a paceline at 30mph.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2010, 04:29:40 PM by mmurph » Logged
Quentin
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« Reply #57 on: April 02, 2010, 07:04:23 PM »
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Quote from: mmurph
You completely misread the article.

I understood the article.   The point I am making stands.  That great icon of stock photography, Getty, is in the process of becoming iStock because that is where the industry is going.  That is not an opinion, its a fact, much as many might resent it. If you stand in the way of the truck you'll get hit by it.  If you get onboard the truck, you are not roadkill, but you are in the perfect position to witness those who, sadly, are.

Quentin
« Last Edit: April 02, 2010, 07:14:04 PM by Quentin » Logged

Quentin Bargate, ARPS, Author, photographer entrepreneur and senior partner of Bargate Murray, Law Firm of the Year 2013
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« Reply #58 on: April 03, 2010, 01:35:38 AM »
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I understood the article.   The point I am making stands.  That great icon of stock photography, Getty, is in the process of becoming


Actually the Great Icon of commercial stock photography was not Getty.

The Great Icon of commercial stock photography was the Image Bank that had the unwritten motto of you only buy stock for two reasons.

1.  You can't do the photograph again.

2.  You don't have the time to do the photograph again.

Both of which were not the stock agency's fault and thus they charged accordingly.

Getty acquired Image Bank, and dozens of other agencies and we all know the results.

Every challenge to their industry they have met with this mindset . . . lowered production, lowered fees/percentages to the talent, lowered prices, more quantity.

Personally, I could care less about dollar stock, microstock, or any of that.  Some works, I'm sure some can be profitable, I guess some might even be considered good photography but overall it's just usually like that example of the photo of the  business people staring into camera . . . a mistake to think it can uniquely brand any product or service or do anything more than use up white space.

With that in mind, I think it's quite fine if anyone wants to shoot it or if anyone believes it's going to enhance their careers or their bank account.  It's a free world (or should be), so keep it up.    God shoot 22 million more images, because at this stage that will make finding a decent, usable and unique photograph from 44 million images impossible.

There is a famous tale from the Legendary Art Director of Harper's Bazaar, Alexey Brodovitch,   http://www.harpersbazaar.com/magazine/140-...bazaar-140-0607, when handed a over thought and complicated layout from a junior assistant.

Alexey tore off a piece of white layout paper, handed it to the junior A.D. and asked him what he saw.

The J.A.D. said a blank piece of paper.

Brodovitch (and I might be quoting this slightly wrong said), NO, what you see is an elegant use of white space.  If you can't do any better than that,  leave it alone.

BC
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Rob C
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« Reply #59 on: April 03, 2010, 02:59:28 AM »
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Indeed, Cooter is on the money. I'm surprised that anyone writing books on stock should seem to know so little of its history. There was Image Bank and also, in terms of fine work, FPG. Getty came along relatively recently as a financial afterthought, simply another business 'opportunity' seen from the perspective of huge financial resources looking for alternative places to lie and grow; cancer-like, some might think. Ditto Corbis.

In Britain, the big player was Tony Stone, who started as a photographer but soon realised that getting 50% from several photographers was a better deal than getting 100% from his own photography. Consider the micro situation of today and ask yourself one simple question: if 50% of somebody else's work is good, how much better is over 90% of somebody else's work - for the agency?

As for Quentin's "overpriced image from Getty" I  believe that reveals a shocking lack of understanding about the real expense of producing good stock material. I spent many years with Stone-prior-Getty and I can tell him that my own speciality of model work cost so much to produce that only by using the extras from assigned commissions was I able to provide any such stock. I once decided to risk my own capital and I floated a trip specifically for stock. How did it fare? It took me around three years to get my invested capital back, and I would never have managed that within the viable life of such images had Stone not managed to bring me two sales from a single image that returned over fifteen hundred pounds on one occassion and over seven hundred on the other. Those were my 50% earnings on each sale. Other sales were down in mainly double figures with the now-and-again rise into triple. There was nothing "overpriced" about it. Why does anyone think that shooting stock is any cheaper for a photographer than shooting the same shot on  commission? The only difference is the snapper's fee: on commission he gets one; on self-assignmenet he may or may not. BUT, the cost of production is exactly the same. The difference in cost between using digital and film, in such work, is neither here nor there; if those are your worries, you are in a very strange market segment.

I suppose that unless you (in the sense of one) put all your money where your mouth is, you will never know what the business really is.

Rob C
« Last Edit: April 03, 2010, 03:02:24 AM by Rob C » Logged

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